Your Wireless Internet Access Options

The topic of reliable high-speed Internet access for small office/home office (SOHO) businesses and telecommuters is quite touchy. From the huge number of email messages I've received about this topic, I've noticed several trends:

  • The DSL problems seem to be concentrated on the coasts—that is, the population centers from Seattle to San Diego and Boston to Washington, DC. This isn't surprising given the population density in those areas. The surprising thing is the lack of options these folks have.
  • I'm glad I'm not in Europe. Several of our European readers sent me information regarding what they pay for a semblance of high-speed Internet access, and the prices in many cases are quite scary.
  • Many folks aren't aware of how important service guarantees are. A small percentage of the messages I received were from satisfied users of DSL and other broadband access methods. Curiously, they hadn't investigated service guarantees but were certain that their providers were reliable in this aspect. Personally, I think that's wishful thinking, but I hope they never need to find out.

I've written about wireless Internet access before, but readers are showing continued interest in the topic, so I'll provide an update here.

Currently, two wireless Internet access technologies are commonly available: satellite access and broadband wireless. Satellite access is available from two providers: Starband and DirecPC. DirecPC sells through a small number of launch partners at this time. One of the DirecPC partners, Pegasus, offers an interesting twist. Pegasus offers businesses a Pro package that the company claims has burst transfer rates of up to 1.5Mbps, which seems to make the technology competitive with T1 service. The company even offers service guarantees with greater than 98 percent uptime. This technology certainly sounds like something worth checking out (I'll let everybody know when I find out more information). Both of the 2-way satellite systems require vendor installation. The FCC enforces this regulation in the United States because the device is a transmitter, not just a receiver.

Broadband wireless service is another option for wireless Internet access. Available from a variety of companies, both large and small (AT&T and Sprint are big providers), broadband wireless is usually a microwave transmission technology that provides high bandwidth at a reasonable cost. Some readers report prices less than $50/month for multimegabit connection rates.

The Internet has several resources you can check for information about broadband wireless service. The Broadband Wireless Exchange Press Center has news and links about broadband vendors and important concerns in the vendor community. The Broadband Wireless Association and the Broadband Wireless Internet Forum are industry consortiums with lots of information and related links available to the general public.

If you're in the market for one of these solutions, look carefully at the services they provide, the data transfer limitations, and the service guarantees. Prices vary widely, and if you're lucky enough to have lots of options, make sure you compare across both wired and wireless solutions.

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